Canada’s Gun Industry Heads for a Second Mixed Year in 2018

29 Nov 2018

4 min read

TheGunBlog.ca — Canada’s firearm industry is headed for a second-straight mixed year as the government considers ending handgun ownership and Quebec police threaten to criminalize hunters who don’t register their rifles and shotguns, while central Canada does well, businesses said.

Many sport shooters are worried about bans and are holding off buying new guns, manufacturers and retailers said yesterday at a trade show at the Toronto Congress Centre organized by U.S.-based Big Rock Sports LLC, Canada’s second-biggest gun distributor.

Market Is ‘Mushy’

“The market’s just been mushy,” Dave Jones, director of Canadian sales for SIG Sauer Inc., a U.S. manufacturer of handguns and rifles that could be prohibited, told TheGunBlog.ca. “I think people are truly scared about what your government is going to do.”

Big Rock Sports supplies stores in Canada and the U.S. with guns made by CZ, Mossberg, Remington, Ruger, SIG Sauer, Smith & Wesson and other brands. It distributes Federal Premium ammunition, Birchwood-Casey targets, Magpul and Blackhawk accessories, and Hoppe’s and G96 gun cleaners.

The company’s annual show is one of the largest events of its kind in Canada. Visitors come from among the 4,500 Canadian businesses that sell guns, ammo or both, ranging from small shops to Canadian Tire Corp. with hundreds of stores.

Quebec Slump

Canada’s 2.2 million licensed hunters and sport shooters buy almost 1,000 guns a day on average and contribute billions of dollars to the national economy.

The hunting and shooting industry in Saskatchewan alone contributes some $300 million to the province each year, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported this week.

Quebec’s new firearm purchases have plunged as owners flood the market with used guns at low prices to avoid registration, said Donald Turcotte, who is based in Quebec and manages sales for The Evans Group, a distributor of firearms and shooting gear. He said the Maritimes are also lower than 2017, while western Canada is doing better.

“The east and Alberta are down, the Prairies and Ontario are up,” Wes Winkel, the president of the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, told TheGunBlog.ca.

Federal government regulations are weighing on hunters and sport shooters for a second year.

Trudeau, Shopify

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed Bill C-71 in March as a law to ban rifles owned by as many as 15,000 lawful shooters and to make it harder to buy, sell, have or transport firearms. Then in August he ordered an examination of a “full ban on handguns and assault weapons.”

Two weeks before Trudeau announced the possible seizures, Ottawa-based Shopify Inc., a provider of websites for online shopping, said it’s kicking gun companies off its platform, sending a handful of Canadian stores scrambling.

Markings, Floods, Fires

A year ago, Winkel called 2017 a “very fractured year.”

The mood in the first half of 2017 was soured by the government’s pending Firearms Marking Regulations to restrict gun imports. Then British Columbia and Alberta were hit by wildfires and floods that shut down hunting and recreational shooting. Wholesale Sports Canada Ltd., a chain in the western provinces, closed. Ontario and the central provinces did well.

This year some businesses are thriving.

‘Sales Are Good’

“Sales are good,” Winkel said about the store he owns in Ontario, Ellwood Epps Sporting Goods, one of Canada’s largest independent gun shops. “We’re mainly up from 2017.”

Big Rock, the No. 2 gun distributor in Canada behind North Sylva Co., is seeing firearm sales up 30 percent this year from 2017, helped by the acquisition of Maurice Sporting Goods, said Ian Greig, national accounts manager. Big Rock is also a major supplier of fishing gear.

Yesterday’s trade show set a record high for the number of retailers attending one of Big Rock’s events in Canada, Grieg said.

Firearm Marking

The distributor is still concerned the firearm-marking regulations will hurt business. The government updated its plans yesterday after having deferred them for a ninth time earlier this month.

“I’m hoping they get rid of them altogether,” Grieg said.

The Quebec market in some cases is helping retailers in other regions as shooters buy outside the province to avoid registration. The Quebec police have threatened to pull firearm Possession and Acquisition Licences from people who don’t register, a move some say is illegal.

Tiffany, Hello Kitty

Sales at Tenda Canada Inc. have been “level” this year compared with last year, said Steve Kuang, who owns the online gun store based near Toronto. He said he’s preparing new marketing efforts for next year to attract women and youth to the shooting sports, such as rifles painted in Tiffany blue and Hello Kitty pink.

Even at SIG Sauer, whose guns are used by Canadian elite military units, police and sport shooters, some products are popular despite worries about the bans. The company’s BDX “ballistic data exchange” system linking a rifle scope to a range finder and a smartphone by Bluetooth is “doing very well,” said Jones.

G96 Products Inc., whose gun oils are used by the U.S. military, is seeing sluggish demand amplify the effects of a weaker Canadian dollar, said Andrew Goldman, a sales representative.

Goldman said 2018 is “softer.”


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